Malaysia

World Watch ranking: 49
Map thumbnail
Leader
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim

How many Christians?
3.1 million (9.2%)

Main threats
  • Islamic oppression
  • Dictatorial paranoia

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How many Christians are there in Malaysia?

Malaysia is predominantly Muslim. There are around 3.1 million Christians – just over nine per cent of the country’s 33.6 million population.

How are Christians persecuted in Malaysia?

Every ethnic Malay is assumed to be Muslim, as defined by the Malaysian constitution. This means that any ethnic Malay who converts to Christianity is at risk of breaking the law and being punished under Sharia (Islamic law). These converts can also face incredible pressure from their families and the broader community. Under Sharia, women and girls are particularly vulnerable, with heavy restrictions in marriage, divorce and child guardianship. Those who convert can be threatened with sexual violence or forced marriage to a Muslim. There is often significant pressure to adopt Islamic dress, even though this is not legally required.

The country's political instability – there have been four prime ministers since 2018 – has led to more political parties trying to appeal to conservative Islamic voters. A conservative Islamic political party has made gains at both the local and national levels, and it is now the largest party though it's not in power. Party leaders regularly make statements of opposition against religious and ethnic minorities, including Christians. Even historic Christian denominations or nonprofits are watched by authorities, and any group seen as being more open to evangelism is at risk for official interference. 

Meet 'Wafa'

“I genuinely believe that I’m called to serve Him in any area that God wants me to be.” Wafa converted to Christianity from an indigenous faith background

What’s life like for Christians in Malaysia?

Wafa* is not from Malaysia’s Muslim majority. Her background is an indigenous community, where most people practise ancestor worship, paganism and even black magic. Wafa’s family are an anomaly in this community: they are Christians. While this group doesn’t experience the same persecution from the government as Christians from a Muslim background, there is a lot of pressure from their neighbours to follow the indigenous faith. The influence of the community was so strong that Wafa started exploring these spiritual practices herself.

Wafa’s pastor was seeing a few other young people move away from the church, and suspected that lack of biblical knowledge was one of the reasons they weren’t feeling secure in the faith. He contacted some local Open Doors partners who came and led a programme to help younger people understand the Bible better – and how to study it on their own. It changed Wafa’s life.

“Before taking part in the Bible programme and studying the Word of God, when I was ill, I used to seek witches for healing,” she says. “After awareness and comprehension of the Word, I realised that Jesus is my Healer, and I don’t need to visit places where people go to seek healing from the spirits of the dark world.”

She also found her purpose: “I discovered that I love to serve people, and this is what I’m called to. I’ve been serving in the worship ministry and helping with the youth service, as well. I genuinely believe that I’m called to serve Him in any area that God wants me to be,” she continues. “I have committed my life to serving Him to the best of my abilities, which He has given me.”

*Name changed for security reasons

Is it getting harder to be a Christian in Malaysia?

Malaysia has fallen six places on the World Watch List, mainly because of a drop in the number of violent incidents recorded and fewer Christians being forced to leave their homes.

How can I help Christians in Malaysia?

Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Malaysia. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.

Open Doors works through local church partners in Malaysia to support persecuted believers with discipleship training, Bibles and Christian books, and socio-economic assistance.

please pray

Dear God, we pray for Your people in Malaysia as they endure pressure and pain because they follow You. Please be with believers throughout the country, particularly those who have made the courageous decision to convert from Islam to Christianity. We ask for encouragement for the many Malaysian believers who serve You openly, that they would be strengthened and given wisdom to walk with You. Thank You for our Malaysian family and their witness for You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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